Americans' confidence in their ability to access and pay for healthcare bounced back in April after dipping in February and March, according to a new consumer sentiment index from Thomson Reuters.

"We're seeing a bit of volatility so far in 2010 – optimism tempered by uncertainty regarding the economy and the future of the healthcare system," said Gary Pickens, chief research officer at Thomson Reuters.

The Consumer Healthcare Sentiment Index found that confidence increased two points from 97 in March to 99 in April, a statistically significant change.

The index, which is based on the Thomson Reuters PULSE(TM) Healthcare Survey, has two parts. A retrospective component gauges respondents' experiences during the past three months. A prospective component gauges their expectations for the coming three months.

In April, respondents expressed growing optimism in their ability to access and pay for healthcare services in the next three months -- resulting in the prospective consumer healthcare outlook climbing from 96 to 100. The retrospective picture was mixed: people were increasingly likely to postpone or delay care even as health insurance coverage improved.

"The index gauges the current use of medical services and predicts future healthcare utilization, making it an important indicator and guide for healthcare organizations," Pickens said.

The index will be updated monthly. A report on the April results is available here: http://healthcarescience.thomsonreuters.com/indexes/assets/CHSI_findings_April.pdf